Shenandoah Valley Organic (SVO), founded in 2013, is a family-run, farmer-focused, organic chicken company located in Harrisonburg, Va., committed to environmental stewardship and providing a healthy source of nutrition through the most humane, clean and safe processes possible. SVO’s commitment is evident from its high ethical standards of raising chickens to its environmentally conscious packaging that is easy to use and recycle.

In its early days, SVO was stocked at small, local groceries. As its reputation for quality, premium products grew, the company expanded distribution to national big-box retailers. Standing out in the crowded, competitive organic chicken market and addressing the needs of discerning organic shoppers became a top priority for SVO. Moving into big-box retail also meant a new set of retailer standards to address, including ways to extend product shelf life, prevent leaks and optimize merchandising. Its leaders knew changing product packaging to communicate both quality and recyclability could help SVO stand out from the crowd.

SVO and Sealed Air Food Care (Sealed Air) had previously collaborated on packaging solutions. Impressed with Sealed Air’s consultative approach to problem solving, SVO’s officers knew Sealed Air was the right partner to help them design and implement the best packaging solution for their entry into big-box retail. With a keen understanding of SVO’s needs, budgets and market position, Sealed Air recommended Cryovac Darfresh tray/skin vacuum packaging. The solution provided SVO with:

  • extended shelf life of case-ready fresh poultry;
  • smaller trays that, unlike foam trays, are recyclable;
  • easy-open, leak-proof packages that are freezer ready;
  • banded label product that can be labeled as needed, creating greater operational efficiency when producing both private and brand-label products.

 “[Retailers] we showed it to have responded, ‘That’s exactly what I’m looking for,’” says Jack Coleman, SVO’s vice president of sales and marketing. The smaller trays give retailers a more consistent product with longer shelf life and reduced shrink. Vertical display capabilities allow retailers to stock more in a case and reduce restocking frequency.

The real proof of success is in the almost fourfold increase in retail sales. SVO’s new packaging delivers the quality perception organic shoppers look for when choosing products. Not only do shoppers get an unobstructed 360-degree view of the chicken product, but the reduction in packaging and elimination of the soaker pad means less overall waste and better recyclability. SVO is gaining new customers as well as increasing repeat shoppers.

“We knew it was a success waiting to happen,” says Jefferson Heatwole, SVO’s executive vice president of sales and marketing. But company leaders didn’t anticipate the rapid ramp up in sales and struggled to keep up. Sealed Air sprang into action, helping SVO restructure its inventory plans and delivering trays and film faster. Heatwole says, “We were pleased with the Cryovac team’s response to our inventory issues and their assistance in getting trays and film in so we could keep up with demand.”

In evaluating the success of the packaging change, SVO found its business gains more than offset the cost of the new equipment. As leaders look at expanding their product offering, SVO continues to partner with Sealed Air to get the best packaging solutions in place from the start. NP